Football Betting Bliss or Miss: The Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat
by Josh Nagel - 09/29/2008
It was somewhat rough footing out there this weekend in college football, what with all the upsets of Top 5 teams and myriad other clubs that looked a lot different than they did the previous week.
If you have to be a Johnny-come-lately bandwagon jumper, it was even worse. For instance, all of the SEC favorites covered the previous weekend. If you took all the SEC chalks this weekend, Georgia, Florida, LSU and South Carolina … you went winless.
In our weekly tribute to the vast highs and lows that come with a Saturday of college football action, here are this week's Bliss or Miss awards:
Bliss: Michigan +6.5 vs. Wisconsin. Final score: Michigan 27, Wisconsin 25.
At halftime, I was certain this was going to be the Miss selection of the week. Check that. I was actually going to find another game to profile because it would have been too shameful to admit I had bet on Michigan.
The set-up seemed so perfect, then … it felt like the Michigan Pop Warner team took the field instead of the Wolverines. Michigan was getting no love from the oddsmakers, who spotted them nearly a touchdown in the Big House against an unbeaten and solid Wisconsin club. I figured much-criticized coach Rich Rodriguez would have his players inspired and eager to give the fans a performance they could hang their hopes on.
Guess I forgot how bad this team is, its Week 1 home loss to Utah somehow a faded memory. Watching this team makes you long for the glory days of Lloyd Carr. It's not that Rodriguez can't coach; but it seems he is making a fundamental mistake by trying to mold this team to his preferred style when he doesn't have the personnel to do so. Wouldn't common sense dictate that you game plan to your team's strength, at least until you can recruit the type of players you prefer?
This odd, round-peg, square-hole strategy had a predictably ugly result. The Wolverines treated the pigskin like a greased hog, committing five first-half turnovers while the Badgers gladly accepted the charitable donations while running up a 19-0 lead. It could have been worse save for Michigan's defense keeping Wisconsin out of the end zone on all but one trip.
Even so, the second half did not seem promising. In one of those delusional gambler's moments, I had a notion to plead with the gambling Gods: "If Michigan could just get one touchdown … then maybe, maybe …?" but I cut myself short on the grounds that the request felt unfathomable the way things were going. But the listless Michigan offense suddenly sprung to life and scored the requested touchdown. There was hope, but help was still needed.
It came from Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema, who treated a 19-7 lead as if it were 49-7. Seemingly content to implement the three-runs-and-a-punt strategy the entire second half in hopes that the clock would just run out, his conservative approach eventually caught up to him. You can't blame him for not fearing Michigan's offense, but still, it was awfully early to go into a shell.
Fortunately, the Wolverines came out of theirs. Another scoring drive brought them within 19-14, and an interception return on the first play following the kickoff gave them the lead. It wasn't pretty by any means, but for Michigan backers it was a big win at the Big House.
Miss: Ohio State -17.5 vs. Minnesota. Final score: Ohio State 34, Minnesota 21.
For those of us waiting for Ohio State to break out and cover a game, well, we're still waiting. You can't blame anyone for thinking this game was a prime candidate for this breakout, but things went horribly wrong at the end.
Sure, the Buckeyes came up short against Ohio, Troy and USC, but in some ways this fact made this game all the more appealing. Star running back Chris Wells was returning from injury and, although Minnesota has exceeded expectations, it appeared clear that this is where reality would set in, as Ohio State is no Florida Atlantic.
Everything went as planned, at least for a while. It was a little disconcerting that the Buckeyes had to settle for field goals on two first-half drives but, even so, well into the fourth quarter they were ahead, 34-6. This is a great margin considering they could allow a Minnesota touchdown and still cover the spread.
However, the Buckeyes could fade two Golden Gopher scores, and that was the sick conclusion of this one. During garbage time, they hit on a 22-yard touchdown pass with just over a minute left, officially putting the lock on the backdoor cover. This is always a risk you run when laying that many points, but that fact doesn't ease the pain much.
Seeing the ESPN ticker flash "Final Score" as it highlighted the 34-21 mark felt like watching the neighbor kid stomp on your newly sprouted tulip garden. It's dead, and there's nothing you can do about it, but the sight makes you sick.